The new fat tax imposed by the Kerala state government has been in the news lately. The fat tax has been imposed on burgers, pizzas, French fries, doughnuts, etc served in quick service multinational restaurants. The idea is to curb the rising numbers in obesity in Kerala. Lots of discussions and debates are taking place on whether or not it’s a wise move.
In my opinion, it’s a first step in the right direction but needs much more thought, planning and better implementation. Imposing a tax only on a few high fat foods is not going to curb obesity. It might reduce the consumption of such foods by some people who cannot afford to pay the extra amount. However, there are many other foods made in our country (egs – namkeens, cookies, bakery items, etc) that are high in total fat or in trans fats, that are easily accessible to the public. How does one regulate them?
And what about the high sugar foods and beverages? Where do snacks and beverages made with high sugar, high fat and refined flour fit in?
The fat tax process needs to be more scientific, involving experts from the field of nutrition and health.
Many packaged foods carry ‘no trans fats’ on their label. This indicates that trans fats are not good for us.
Trans fats (trans fatty acids is the real term) are formed when vegetable oils undergo hydrogenation to make them solid at room temperature. The most common examples of trans fats is vanaspati and margarine. This type of fat is used in baking (biscuits, cookies, cakes, etc), in ready-to-eat foods (chiwdas, mixtures, bhujias, namkeens, chips, etc), and sometimes even in homes and restaurants for deep frying. The reason for its widespread use is because vanaspati is cheaper than pure ghee or butter, and it’s melting point is higher than some oils. Secondly, vanaspati and margarine do not contain cholesterol because they are made from vegetable oils. So far so good.
But the downside of using hydrogenated fats is that it’s the worst type of fat for health. Trans fats not only increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body, they also decrease the ‘good’ cholesterol. Heart disease risk increases much more from trans fats than when you consume saturated fat from butter!
So it’s best to stay away from all those ready-made munchies and also to read labels carefully when you buy packaged foods. While eating out do not hesitate to ask the cook what type of fat he uses for cooking.